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Corporate Architecture & Interior Design – Is the Future a Mystery?

By Ar. Saptarshi Chakrabarti (IGBC-AP), Principal Architect, Surbana Jurong


Ar. Saptarshi Chakrabarti (IGBC-AP), Principal Architect, Surbana Jurong

Look around, if you will.

Is everything from your overhead lighting to the flooring to the partition walls flaunting conscious Architectural & Interior Design decisions? Or is it screaming out some unconscious afterthoughts?

We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors (Courtesy: NHAPS), about 70 years of our average lifetime, which is why such conscious design decisions matter. Companies are increasingly getting sensitive to the fact that habitable interior spaces should allow ease of breathing, gives views of nature, gives adequate daylight, and makes people healthier and more productive. Companies are increasingly realizing the relevance of conscious Architectural & Interior design decisions that can have profound effects on our health and the immediate environment. The need of the day seems to be workspaces that engage people, augment productivity and be dynamic to a continuously changing business environment.

‘Modernization’ as we know it, once which meant a societal change over a period of 20 to 30 years, today, means a notable change over a brief period of 2 to 3 years. Now to stay ahead, both designers and manufacturers have to be not only technology experts, but also business strategists, futurists, regulatory/code experts (especially if they work in a global economy), educators of staff and management, marketers, customer service representatives, ethicists, and management consultants (Courtesy: Form follows future by Rhode).

Corporate Architecture & Interior Design today goes beyond just designing beautiful spaces and I have seen it become a strategic instrument for driving the people, processes, culture and technology towards the overall organizational goal. Consciously designed spaces reflect a company’s vision, image, culture and social responsiveness and attract the best human resources.

Architecture & Interior design consultants of this day sure do understand that proper environmentally responsive design solutions can have substantial impact for generations to come, and therefore try working very closely with their clients to envisage solutions that inspire collaboration, increase productivity, promote employee mobility and streamline space use and become sustainable as a whole.

Sustainability becomes an overarching phenomenon of the workspaces today, with its most important aspect being health and wellness of the occupants. From using rainwater collection systems to supplement wastewater needs, to using rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo, innovation is reaching for higher benchmarks everyday when it comes to designing sustainable spaces. A raised level of consciousness throughout the corporate world reflects in the design and implementation of specialized knowhow on interiors materials, fixtures, furniture and equipment, promoting sustainable and toxin-free built environments.

India is one of the most rapidly urbanizing countries in the world with about half of its population (nearly 600 million people) expected to be living in cities by 2030. Likely to be one of the countries that will be worst hit by climate change, India has an urgent need to 'climate proof' (Courtesy: WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature) itself by implementing sustainable climate adaptation strategies, from a bigger picture, right up to the levels of Architecture & Interiors.

I have personally observed a remarkable market shift through the past decade in India. There had initially been a perceived notion that sustainability is a temporary trend and the interior or exterior products calling themselves as ‘sustainable’ won’t perform as good as their conventional counterparts. However, product manufacturers have responded pretty well to the evolving market demands, mostly exceeded the industrial sustainability benchmarks, and delivered higher performance, better aesthetics and a wide variety of options to choose from. Today, product manufacturers use indoor air quality labels and certifications like the Greenguard, the GreenLabel, the FloorScore or the Green Seal, as scientifically recommended selection criteria for benchmarking their products.

As Sustainability becomes the trend for the Architecture & Interior design industry, necessity deepens for health and productivity to be inclusive. Access to daylight and external views, through conscious design decisions can positively affect users and reduce the overall energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases as well. Sensitive choice of lighting can significantly reduce wattage without sacrificing the aesthetics or performance, having tremendous impact on the amount of energy used for lighting as well as cooling loads. Such a sensitive design ideally incorporates low-e façade vision glazing on its perimeter, and locates the offices towards the interior core of the building, maximizes access to windows, enhances the overall ambiance of the entire office space and wellbeing of the users.

Sustainable green buildings can have tremendous benefits, both tangible and intangible. The most tangible benefits are the reduction in water and energy consumption right from day one of occupancy. The energy savings could range from 20 – 30 percent and water savings around 30 – 50 percent. The intangible benefits of green new buildings include enhanced air quality, excellent day lighting, health & well-being of the occupants, safety benefits and conservation of scarce national resources (Courtesy: The Indian Green Building Council).

With tight budgets, I have seen project sponsors barely look beyond the CAPEX in product selection. However, it is not difficult for a consultant to sensitize the sponsor to look for the value, rather than the cost alone, as the driver for judicious decision-making. The OPEX involved in maintenance and servicing throughout the life cycle of products vary, and consciously designed spaces can allow for any ongoing reconfiguration, accommodate inherent flexibility, give quick ROI, and ensure minimal of redundant quantum ends up in landfill.

I would conclude here by saying that a ‘Sustainable-Minimalism’ could be our probable future to look for, wherein approaches like ‘Less is More’ (Courtesy: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) – which is about avoiding overdesign and wastage, approaches like ‘Dematerialization’ (Courtesy: Bill Joy) – which relates to treating the bare structure as finish, and general ‘green’ approaches like recycling, reusing, retrofitting, salvaging and reclaiming, could dominate the times to come. 

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